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Sheff Utd 1-1 Fulham FAC 4th Rnd 1314 The Guardian

last updated Monday 27th January 2014, 12:18 PM

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John Ashdown at The Guardian

Sheff Utd (1) 1 Fulham (0) 1

Frustration and satisfaction were to be found in equal measure at Bramall Lane, where Fulham narrowly escaped becoming Sheffield United's second Premier League scalp of the season, yet René Meulensteen was left bemoaning their inability to finish the job off at the first attempt.

Hugo Rodallega's thumping goal 15 minutes from time ended the League One side's resistance - the barricades having been manned by only 10 men following the sending-off of Michael Doyle early in the second half - but penalty claims turned down for both sides meant that neither team could feel overly aggrieved by the result.

"As a Premier League team you should be able to put a game like this to bed, especially once we got the equaliser," said the Fulham head coach. "You need to take your chances. And in hindsight you could maybe say we're a bit lucky to be in the Cup, because they could've hurt us on the break and they had a penalty shout that could have been given."

That shout for the home side, which came five minutes before Rodallega's equaliser, saw Ryan Flynn tumble over Aaron Hughes' leg. Andre Marriner was unmoved, as he had been in the first half when, seconds after Chris Porter had given the Blades a lead, Rodallega had gone to ground as the United goalkeeper, George Long, slid out. "Andre's one of the nicest guys you'd want to meet but some of his decisions today frustrated us," said the United manager, Nigel Clough.

The result means a replay that both sides deserved yet, given their respective relegation battles, neither will particularly relish. "It's like an extended Christmas period," was Meulensteen's view of Fulham's crowded forthcoming fixture list - Tuesday's trip to Swansea is the first of five matches in 16 days. "All managers complain about [the number of] games but that's what you've got a squad for," said the Dutchman, who made 11 changes here from the side that lost against Arsenal in Fulham's previous Premier League outing. "That's why you can make every member a valuable part of that squad. They have to deliver when they're called upon."

One of the Cottagers' back-up strikers, Rodallega, did deliver but they might have avoided a replay had another, Darren Bent, not sidefooted wide from little more than a yard with four minutes to go. The excellent Pajtim Kasami saw his header blocked on the line by Matt Hill but the former England striker could not turn the ball home at the back post.

"It was a poor miss," said Meulensteen. "Darren, that's what he's made his life from, those little chances; that's where those players turn up. He was disappointed with it himself, as you can imagine."

If he was in need of an excuse, Bent could point to the conditions. A pre-match deluge had caused a pitch inspection an hour before kick-off and much of the game mirrored the stodgy pitch. Fulham's youthful exuberance - Meulensteen handed first starts to the teenagers Muamer Tankovic and Josh Passley, while a third, Ange-Freddy Plumain, was on the field within 10 minutes after an injury to John Arne Riise - was tempered by Giorgos Karagounis's calm prompting from midfield. But the visitors never really looked likely to carve open the home side in a scrappy first half. Indeed the greatest scare for United came when a low cross jammed in the goalmouth mud just before the half-hour.

Two minutes after that fright, though, the League One side were ahead. Harry Maguire, a mountainous centre-half linked with a move to Manchester United earlier this season, rumbled forward from the back and his low cross-shot was touched home by Porter.

It was always likely to be a tough lead to hold on to and within 10 minutes of the interval United's task became that much harder following the departures of their goalscorer, their defensive linchpin and their captain through a mixture of misfortune and indiscipline. The misfortune befell Porter and Maguire, both of whom suffered injuries. The indiscipline belonged to the captain, Doyle, who lashed out after an altercation with Chris David and was shown the red card. "It made a difference," said Clough. "Maybe we had to defend a bit more but even with 10 men I thought we were a threat on the break."

Thereafter United dug their trenches in the soggy turf on the edge of their own area and threatened through occasional sorties, while Fulham poked and prodded in an attempt to find a path through. Eventually the breakthrough came, Rodallega finding space on the edge of the box and then the bottom corner.

In a frenzied finale Philippe Senderos plonked a free header on to the crossbar, Bent fluffed his lines and the promising Tankovic saw a fizzing drive deflected wide. The Blades, though, held on and Clough was optimistic about his side's chances in the replay on Tuesday week. Fulham, though, will start favourites to secure a home fifth-round tie against Nottingham Forest or Preston.

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